WASHINGTON (CN) – The Environmental Protection Agency is reaffirming a program allowing electric power plants to trade emissions, based on its finding that this is more effective at reducing regional haze than requiring them to install technology to filter their emissions.
States whose emissions from power plants contribute to downwind states’ failure to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards for visibility are required to reduce their emissions.
This usually had been accomplished by requiring power plants built between 1962 and 1977 to install the best available retrofit technology to scrub emissions.
In 2005, the EPA adopted the Clean Air Interstate Rule, which allowed states to adopt alternatives to retrofitting scrubbers if the alternatives were better than retrofitting.
The Interstate Rule was challenged by environmental groups and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia remanded the rule to the EPA while it reviewed the challenges.
After the remand, the EPA adopted a new rule, known as the Transport Rule to supersede the Interstate Rule, creating four markets for trading emissions among the 27 states covered by the rule.
In December, the D.C. Circuit Court stayed the Transport Rule while it continues to review challenges to the Interstate Rule. While this technically means the Interstate Rule is still in effect, the agency says the substance of the remand was ultimately to scrap the Interstate Rule in favor of a new rule.
In the interim, many states developed plans to reduce emissions based on the Interstate Rule, but because that rule had been remanded and is considered only a temporary regulation, the EPA would not approve the states’ implementation plans.
Instead, the agency will supplant those state plans with its own plans based on the trade allowances in the Transport Rule. These federal implementation plans will sunset provisions of the Interstate Rule, but do not require states to use emissions trading programs to reduce regional haze instead of retrofit technology; they allow the states to use trading as an alternative method of improving visibility.